E-scooters developed in Taiwan offer viable eco-friendly solutions

(Taiwan Today staff photo/Huang Chung-hsin)

(Taiwan Today staff photo/Huang Chung-hsin)

“This scooter doesn’t run on gasoline. Cost-effective and good for the environment, it echoes the global sustainability trend,” said movie director Wu Nien-jen in a TV commercial promoting E-moving electric scooters manufactured by Taiwan-based China Motor Corp.

The commercial follows A-mei, an altruistic borough chief who travels around her local community on an environmentally friendly and noise-free E-moving bike to offer a helping hand to residents.

Within a year of its debut, the ad had garnered more than 1 million hits on YouTube. “The commercial really works,” said Huang Yi-yuan, sales manager of the CMC department for two-wheeled electric vehicles. The idea of using borough chiefs to promote the bikes, he added, was the result of days of brainstorming among the company’s marketing team.

Getting the Word Out

E-moving scooters are cheaper to operate than their gas-guzzling counterparts. The electricity bill for covering 1 kilometer on an E-moving bike is NT$0.07 (US$0.02), compared with NT$0.7 to NT$1 in gasoline costs for a standard motorcycle. In addition to being 10 times cheaper to operate, the vehicles also require less maintenance and repair. However, this benefit presents a challenge to manufacturers since motorcycle sellers, which rely on vehicle servicing fees, tend to discourage consumers from purchasing the eco-friendly alternatives owing to fears about their bottom lines.

In an effort to reach out directly to consumers, CMC staffers tried to identify which individuals make frequent interpersonal contact with local community residents. “At last, borough chiefs came to mind,” Huang said.

Wu agreed that borough chiefs, who tend to move throughout communities on a daily basis, could play a significant role in promotional activities. CMC decided not simply to make a borough chief the focus of its advertisement, but to encourage these public representatives to use the vehicles in the performance of their duties.

To date, the company has handed out free E-moving bikes to borough chiefs in northern Taiwan’s Taoyuan City, home to the enterprise’s headquarters, in addition to establishing 700 charging stations in the municipality. To Huang’s surprise, some borough chiefs cover some 20,000 km a year on their e-scooter.

Chiang Ching-shan, chief of Dongpu Borough, started using his E-moving scooter immediately after receiving the bike in September 2016. Four other residents have purchased the e-scooters in the time since. “E-moving bikes are quite suitable for people in urban areas. They don’t run on gasoline and are easy to ride,” Chiang said. He added that because E-moving bikes make little noise, people often call him sneaky for riding the vehicle.

The primary market for E-moving bikes is corporate users. Businesses using the vehicles include T-Cat Express Delivery Service, fast food chain MOS Burger and HCT Logistics. Many of the scooter rental companies in tourist spots like the offshore islands of Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu have opted for E-moving scooters, too.

CMC designs different electric motorcycles for different business sectors. For example, the model targeting postal workers is equipped with a GPS device and large storage box.

In line with the growth trend in the overall e-scooter market, shipments of E-moving bikes have been rising since 2016. With sales totaling over 10,000 units per year, the brand now accounts for more than 40 percent of the lightweight electric scooter market in Taiwan. Most E-moving users are over the age of 40.

Limiting Top Speeds

Unlike Gogoro, another Taiwan electric scooter company that received huge acclaim soon after entering the market, E-moving initially had a difficult time.

CMC’s e-scooters hit the market in 2010, before those of any other enterprise, but the company had a hard time selling the products, with the exception of a period from April to October that year when purchases of electric scooters received government subsidies. A major headache for the company was whether the e-scooters should employ swappable batteries or public charging stations.

Huang believes the swappable battery solution is good in the short term, but bad in the long term, whereas the task of building charging stations is rather challenging in the beginning but ultimately pays off. Although setting up charging stations is quite costly, he reasoned that consumers will pay less and less over time as the network of such facilities becomes increasingly mature.

In the meantime, every new e-scooter model has to undergo very strict, time-consuming checks. According to CMC, among other factors, the bikes have to be tested for hot and cold weather resistance. They must perform well in temperatures of up to 55 Celsius degrees and minus 3 C before entering mass-production.

All elements of the e-scooters were designed with functionality in mind. Young people often complain about the speed of E-moving bikes, which max out at 60 kilometers per hour. “They like to look cool by driving bikes at speed, so the E-moving scooter is designed with a low upper speed limit to promote safety,” Huang said.

Despite slow initial sales, CMC’s e-bike division is making its mark on the market. Huang also confessed there is still much room for improvement. For example, more has to be done to make e-scooters suitable for the elderly. Also, the scooters need a design more appealing to young people, especially women in their 30s, he said.

With limited resources and an ambition to explore new frontiers, the small but efficient team led by Huang at the 50-year-old automaker is driving a path to success.

[By Hsiao Yu-ping / tr. by Oscar Chung]